As a prospective constituent of yours, I'm asking for your views on the issue of assisted dying.
Like 84% of people in this country, I believe that terminally ill, mentally competent adults should not be forced to suffer in their final months, but instead have the option of a peaceful death on their own terms.
This year two high-profile cases have shown that the existing laws on assisted dying are causing huge problems for dying people, their families and public servants. In February, Ann Whaley was interviewed under caution by police for helping her husband of more than fifty years, who had motor neurone disease, to have an assisted death in Switzerland.
In September, Mavis Eccleston was acquitted of the murder and manslaughter of her husband Dennis, who had end-stage bowel cancer. Mavis and Dennis, who had been married for almost fifty years, attempted to take their own lives together. Mavis survived but was then charged with murder. Mavis and her family faced over a year of distress and anxiety, while police and prosecutors spent considerable resources to bring the case.
A law that regards Mavis and Ann as criminals for simply acting out of love is a law not fit for purpose. We need to fully understand what harms the blanket ban on assisted dying is causing.
If elected as my MP, would you support a government inquiry into the state of the law?
Compassion is not a crime.
As this is a matter of personal conscience, there is no formal party policy on this issue, so I cannot say how my colleagues would vote. Personally, I am broadly in favour of allowing people to choose how they die, and the current system means that assisted suicide is available to those who can get themselves to Switzerland, but not to those who are too poor or ill to manage this journey alone. So from the perspective of liberty and equality, the same option should be available to all.
However, it is also the responsibility of government to ensure that individuals are not simply responding to a lack of investment in health and social care. That feeling of 'being a burden' haunts many people, not being valued members of our communities and neighbourhoods, has to be challenged. Discussions in the media which focus on the cost of the health service and the cost of social care mean that the social investment in people is always ignored. If individuals are unable to care for themselves or their close family or friends then government has a duty to step in and provide good quality services.
Before voting to allow assisted dying, I would need assurance that those individuals who are considering planning their own deaths are also appropriately protected from the influence of others.
This is an issue which demands the highest level of compassion, clear debate and extremely well-crafted legislation. I would therefore welcome a Parliamentary inquiry.